Hey, Nicholas Castellanos: Don’t be such a grump about analytics!

By Mark Simon

Chicago Cubs right fielder Nicholas Castellanos recently expressed his distaste for analytics in an interview with Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

In a way, that’s unfortunate. The analytics show that Castellanos has made considerable defensive progress this season, his second full season playing right field.

In 2018, Castellanos had about as rough a season in right field as any player did anywhere. He cost the Tigers 19 runs, almost entirely based in his struggles hit to the deepest part of ballparks.

But this season, he’s fared far better at turning those balls into outs, thus taking away potential doubles and triples. Here’s the comparison:

Balls Hit to Deepest Part of Right Field
Year Plays Made Opportunities Plays Below Average
2018 81 134 17
2019 83 118 1

Castellanos has gone from performing terribly on those balls to becoming an average fielder on them. He’s got a ways to go to be Cody Bellinger (80 plays made on 95 opportunities) but he’s improved to a reasonable level of adequacy.

The improvement could be rooted in any number of things, with positional familiarity being the most likely. He’s also played a little deeper than he did last season — moving from an average starting position of 289 feet to 292 feet at Comerica Park, and playing 294 feet deep at Wrigley Field. The one or two steps he may have gained in this could be difference makers.

Granted, Castellanos still has a ways to go. He’s cost his teams a combined six runs this season and his arm could use improvement in terms of baserunning deterrence. But the analytics are showing something positive for him, and perhaps giving him a reason to give them a chance.

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